With the new year dawning like many people i have been looking into the concept of a new hobby project to take me into the next decade, thoughout most of 2019 I have been working on my Midnight City first as a concept within my Ironweld Arsenal Fantome and then as an extension of the fantastic Cities of Sigmar battletome that arrived midway through the year. For me the Midnight City was about more than simply integrating proper human factions into the Age of Sigmar, I embrace a project from an emotive core, that is to say the army needs to have a feeling rooted into the very essense that I can spin out into new and diverse ways of modelling and playing the game. By using core emotions as the basis for a project it provides a rooted connection to something we can all understand outside of the fantastical settings, I might not be able to tell you how an Aelf feels when a Duardin took their place on the queue for a Realmgate atop a mountain of fire, but I can relate through feelings of indignation, insult, rage, and use these to extrapolate.
The Midnight City then, at its core, is a story of defiance and loneliness as a single torch burning out against the darkness of Ulgu and the greater shadows that loom over the realms as a whole. They were alone for so long when the City of Heaven locked its doors abandoning them to their fate, though it was surely not personal that feeling of being abandoned, being considered unworthy perhaps or worse simply not having been thought of at all is something that many can relate to. As I have suffered depression on and off throughout my life those are core feelings that rise up from time to time, I can channel them artistically to really connect with the core of characters or in this circumstance a whole populace. But Midnight is not a story of Tragedy, they endured those long years of dark together and used that pain to harden themselves, they became pragmatic innovators able to channel it even into dark humour that took some dent off of the choking smogs that later filled their hidden workshops, through isolation and innovation to emerge anew stronger than they had ever been. That at its heart is the foundation of the Midnight City, very much an overly fantastical styilised approach to one of my prior depressive spirals, but a story of emerging out of the darkness stronger and able to look out at new things with a warmth and knowledge they would otherwise have lacked.
Feral Sylvaneth, The Heart of Ghur
As you can see above I invest a good deal of myself into every project I concieve, to have an emotional core to the project I must first pull upon an experience or emotion that I feel can be spun out into a whole creative web, I need to (for want of a better word) feel the project. So when looking for a new project there were some fantastic ideas put forward and certainly each lent itself to a myriad of concepts that could be explored but each felt a little alien, a little outside of my own personal experience and thus whilst I was certain i could make something I didnt neccessarily have a whole lot of faith it would be something worth seeing.
Taking some time away to spend with family, and partly influenced by seeing my other halfs work in progress Sylvaneth sprues sat on my modelling desk I put my mind to finding something that would motivate me in the year to come of hobby. Midnight was industrious, cold steel and innovation and every human/duardin/aelf faction I concieved essentially ended up the same way, as I loved the original concept it was something that was hard to break away from. So mulling on this idea, the need to create something… that need itself could then become the project, the idea of creation in and of itself breaking away from the rules, the constraints, the status quo in order to be both involved and independant.
I have in the past tried to write a number of “Other than” factions for Age of Sigmar, reclusive insectoid species lurking beneath the Realmplate, Fae that live in the infinite void preying upon the strands of fate and yet the true other than faction is already present in the Sylvaneth. But within the current models the Sylvaneth seek to fit in with the status quo, they are humanoid either by the will of their goddess or mimicry of the civilisations around them, even in their raw creation they are essentially imitations of humanity (or various humanoid ilk). But the core concept of this life, their wild nature and then exploring it in the context of the tapestry of Ghur, what would the Sylvaneth of this untamable realm be like?
Ghur is hungry, predatory, feral and untamable, if the Sylvaneth of the greater realms are Noble Spirits then as a core concept my Sylvaneth would instead be Primal Spirits. Old souls, old forests, those who have spent centuries in the wild land, not fighting its very nature but as an integral part of the realm at large. If a prey beast escapes its predator beneath the boughs of the forest, the forest itself becomes the predator. If a woodsman seeks to cut down the forest, they themselves are instead cut down, and if a beast would seek to consume these Sylvaneth to make themselves stronger, they instead are consumed.
As you can see despite a core of creation there is a string of defiance threaded through the project, it is about independance and what lengths these wild beasts would go to in order to stay free. As each project starts with but a single model I took to writing what would become the description for my first model:
“Its twisted boughs have shaped a quadrupedal aspect, every vine forming muscle like sinew straining with potent energy to tear through the forest floor. Toughened thick ebony bark forms armoured carapace to its fore, its sternem a nigh impenetrable plate to solid Ironbark, its limb ending in thornlike talons ready to wrench steel plate asunder. To its head, if one might venture that name for it, lay the skull of the great beasts of the realms, seemingly entangled in the vines to bear cruse semblance to the predators of the forest that have been swallowed by these Wyldform sylvaneth. Its back is crested by a litany of barbs, each dripping with a myriad of insidious toxins of the forests flora, able to launch them defensively at enemies that stray too close to this near canid Treelord.
Such an evolution of the oft regarded as Noble treelords of the Sylvaneth is a far flung relative to those that frequent the boughs of Ghyran, the primal nature of Ghur seemingly having bled into its very soul (if one were to attribute such creatures as having a soul). There is perhaps crude intellect to the beast, seemingly picking its prey from the strongest elements to venture within its territories, seeking out those qualities that the forest needs to survive and grow. It is in my observations their primary purpose, to absorb these great beasts and integrate their characteristics into the forest itself, on occasion I have been blessed enough to witness such a rapid digestion of snared foe manifest in bonelike exoskeletons forming across the ironbark armour of the Wyldforms before discarding the drains husk of their snared prey.”
And here is what my initial conversion looks like, hopefully close to the brief!